Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Review by Lea Ann - The Road by Cormac McCarthy

*** Periodically, I will feature guest reviewers on this blog. This is the first and is a review of Cormac McCarthy's The Road by a dear friend and fellow book club member Lea Ann. The views expressed in this review are her own and as I have not read The Road, I accept them as true. ***

Book: The Road

Author: Cormac McCarthy

Grade: B +

Recommended To: Readers looking for a book that asks hard questions and gives no answers.

The Road is a critically acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy. The story follows a father and son in a post-apocalyptic journey from the north to the south of what is presumably the United States, but it shouldn't be considered in the genres of science fiction or fantasy that tackle the same subject matter. There is no explanation as to how this world exactly came about, and the events in the novel do not take place directly after the apocalyptic event, but anywhere from 6-10 years later. The man and his son inhabit a world that is in the burning, burnt, or covered with ash. There are no plants, no animals and no sun.

It's haunting. But what beauty the scenery lacks is made up in McCarthy's mastery of language. "Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it." McCarthy's ability to conjure emotion from language is startling and it was easy to feel what the characters were feeling, even though the world we inhabit is so different from theirs.

What I liked about the book were the questions that were posed by the man, through whose eyes we see the world. One question asked was: "Query: how does the never to be differ from what never was?" The book continues to ask that of the reader while McCarthy gives pieces of information with which the reader can build an answer. Where does hope come from - if it comes at all? Yes the book is depressing, but I think it's important to ask these questions and to have novels that challenge our understanding of the human condition. It's a deep book of dark times - and sometimes I just had to put it down, take a deep breath, and be thankful for all the wonderful things I have in my own life.

What I thought McCarthy may have done better was made the novel a little more accessible in places. The style it is written in works for the story, but it's not always consistent. It's hard to figure out who is speaking, the man or the boy, as neither are named in the novel and their dialogue is often short and rapid. Other times McCarthy got a little carried away with his language that made whole paragraphs sound nice but the meaning of the words were somewhat lost.

I gave the book a B+ only because I know the bleakness of the story will make the material unapproachable for some. The horrible things people do to each other in this world, and in the world the man and the boy inhabit are sometimes too much to accept.

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